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Our poetry gigs of 2014

As an extra stocking filler to go alongside our ‘books of 2014’ blog yesterday, we present our favourite poetry gigs of the year. After all, not all poetry is best experienced on the page…



OD = Ollie Dawson / JBrd = Julia Bird / WB = Will Barrett / JBdn = Jo Brandon


Chris McCabe‘s Speculatrix launch @ St Johns Crypt

Published too late in the year to read and review in its entirety, the Speculatrix launch, in the depths of St John’s Crypt, Clerkenwell, was a fantastically eerie introduction to what promises to be Chris McCabe’s most ambitious work to-date. I’m a big fan of Chris’s poems and never fail to be impressed with his ability to convey his complex and conceptual poetry to audiences through his performances. If you ever get a chance to hear him read I recommend you take it. OD

Jacqueline Saphra/Emma Press Poetry Café collaboration

A lively and inspiring event showcasing the collaboration between Poetry School tutor Jacqueline Saphra, artist Mark Andrew Webber and composer Benjamin Tassie. It was wonderful to hear about how the collaboration evolved and added a new dimension to an already beautifully crafted set of prose-poems from Jacqueline Saphra. Emma Press have produced a host of great events in 2014 but this has definitely been one of my favourites! JBdn


Ryan Van Winkle’s Viewmaster show in the boat hotel on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of Poetry International. One poet, one accordionist and one audient (me) listening to poems while selectively blindfolded by a Viewmaster slideshow of the seven wonders of the world. JB

The Pity @ Southbank Centre

4 commissioned sequences inspired by WW1 from a striking assembly of four very different poets: Steve Ely, Zaffar Kunial, Denise Riley and Warsan Shire. It’s very rare I get away from any poetry reading without my attention drifting off at some point (we’ve all been there), but this had me completely engaged, helped particularly by the slantedness of each poetic response, often re-framing the war experience through the obliquity of personal history to even, in Denise Riley’s instance, Vogue’s top tips on mourning attire. WB

Midsummer Water Day

Alice Oswald’s poem giveaway at the Roman Baths in Kings College, part of Somerset House’s Day of Water, in association with Penned in the Margins and the Poetry Society. I followed a map to an atmospheric location previously unknown to me, and received a limited edition beautifully origamied poem by one of my favourite writers. JB

The Complete Works II: The New Wave launch @ Southbank Centre

This extraordinary event is probably one of the most electrifying group readings I’ve ever been too. The atmosphere was practically carnivalesque, a packed-out Queen Elizabeth Hall whooping, cheering, whistling, shirking, gasping and (yes) weeping along to every mouthful with the kind of ecstatic gusto normally reserved for 1 Direction concerts. It was an utterly compelling place to be for a few hours. For 10 relatively low profile poets, this was an amazing vindication of contemporary poetry, and I can’t wait to hear more from them all in the future. WB

The Retold Ramayana

Jaybird’s latest production was a wonderful adaptation of Daljit Nagra’s recent retelling of this epic tale. I did not know the story beforehand but the production (employing fantastic cartoon visuals and lighting) and Daljit’s engaging storytelling style worked harmoniously to draw the audience in. Impressive stuff from the Poetry School’s very own Julia Bird. OD

Kelley Swain’s Opera Di Cera launch

A thoroughly enjoyable event at the Horseshoe pub in Clerkenwell that gave a lot of insight into the research behind Kelley Swain’s engrossing verse drama including dramatic readings from the poet and professional actors as well as a short talk from historian Anna Maerker about the history behind the real anatomical waxworks. JBdn

Hannah Silva’s Shlock!

Hannah Silva’s Shlock! produced by Penned in the Margins, and premiering at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. A highly produced show combining Kathy Acker’s cancer memoir, Fifty Shades of Grey, sign language, projection and poetry – it read like a live thematic anthology. JB

Butcher’s Dog #4 launch at Durham Book Festival

We worked long and hard on BD4, with little knowledge about many of the poets we decided to put in the magazine. Misguided doubts that we’d inadvertently plumped for a bunch of one-poem-wonders were easily put to rest at this incredibly enjoyable evening, where 8 of our shortlisted poets read with incredible professionalism, canny and verve. It’s hard to believe some read that evening for the very first time, and it was an unbridled pleasure to finally hear all the poets off the page. We did the Dogs proud. WB

A Joy Forever Poetry Picnic

A perfect Summer afternoon spent in the gardens of Keats’ House in Hampstead Heath, enjoying a picnic of tea and delicious Keats-themed cake served on dainty china accompanied by wonderful readings of Keats’ poetry, letters and stories of his travels curtesy of raconteurs Julia Bird and Mike Sims. JBdn


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